Devastating fire leaves thousands of Rohingya homeless in Bangladesh refugee camp

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, expressed deep concern over the incident, estimating that nearly 7,000 individuals have been displaced by the fire. Furthermore, approximately 120 essential facilities, including mosques and healthcare centers, suffered damage

In an incident that unfolded on Sunday,7th January a devastating fire ripped through a Rohingya refugee camp located in southeastern Bangladesh. The blaze, which ignited in the early hours of the day, wreaked havoc in Camp 5 in Cox’s Bazar, a border district with Myanmar. The fire quickly spread, destroying approximately 800 shelters and leaving thousands of Rohingya refugees homeless, according to officials on the ground.

Fire service personnel, alongside Rohingya volunteers, managed to bring the inferno under control after approximately three hours of intense efforts. Fortunately, no casualties were reported, but the aftermath revealed a staggering toll on the community. Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner in Cox’s Bazar, reported not only the loss of homes but also significant damage to vital facilities, including learning centres.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, expressed deep concern over the incident, estimating that nearly 7,000 individuals have been displaced by the fire. Furthermore, approximately 120 essential facilities, including mosques and healthcare centres, suffered damage. UNHCR emphasized its commitment to supporting those affected, stating that all arrangements have been made, and provisions, including food and temporary shelters, are being provided to those affected, according to Mohammad Shamsud Douza, the deputy Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees.

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority group from Myanmar, have been living in cramped conditions in bamboo-and-plastic camps in Cox’s Bazar since fleeing a military crackdown in 2017. The recent fire has added to the challenges faced by these vulnerable communities, compounding their already difficult living conditions.

The cause of the fire remains unknown, and UNHCR noted that the government authorities have assured them of a thorough investigation. Fires are unfortunately not uncommon in the densely populated camps with makeshift structures. A similar incident in March 2021 claimed the lives of at least 15 refugees and destroyed over 10,000 homes. Last year, another massive fire left about 12,000 Rohingya homeless, prompting an investigating panel to label it a “planned act of sabotage.” These incidents underscore the urgent need for enhanced safety measures and improved infrastructure within the refugee camps.

As the affected Rohingya suffer in the aftermath of yet another devastating fire, humanitarian organizations and the international community are called upon to provide support, both immediate and long-term, to address the pressing needs of those affected by this tragic event. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by Rohingya refugees and the critical importance of international cooperation in ensuring their safety and well-being.

All arrangements have been made, and provisions, including food and temporary shelters, are being provided to those affected.